A growing volume of visa applications and traveller enquiries is driving the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) to explore ICT solutions to streamline its client enquiry processes.
A DIBP spokesperson, speaking to Intermedium, stated that the department is working to “[bring] onshore work that is currently provided overseas” by capitalising on “modern digital technologies, solutions and products.” This is to offset the cost-heavy process where staff are tasked with individually responding to frequently-asked client enquiries that are usually found in publicly available domains. The current enquiries page of the DIBP website only links users to a webform, which necessitates a staff member’s response.
In a Request for Expression of Interest (REOI) released in October 2016, DIBP called for tech solutions in the servicing of “telephone and email enquiries from the Department’s onshore and offshore Service Centres.” The Department also expressed interest in “innovative solutions” that span across its other digital channels, such as Social Media and Web Chat.
The spokesperson told Intermedium that “[t]he Department is in the process of evaluating tender responses”, and that “[a] provider has not yet been selected.”
One of the only Australian government agency sites, with high citizen user traffic, to so far utilise a web-chat function is the Alex avatar on the Australian Taxation Office website. Alex currently utilises a proponent of machine learning, natural language processing and reasoning.
There is a marked lag in the transition to streamlined self-service function within Australian government agency sites, especially in light of claims by market researchers that citizen users are increasingly expectant of such services. Indeed, Forrester claims that 72 per cent of customers prefer using self-service to resolve enquiries, correlating with a 125 per cent rise in international self-service portals in the 2015-16 year. It is a growing trend, increasingly anticipated by citizens requiring immediate answers and solutions to essential processes and procedures, within individual cases.
The solution is also likely to be subject to a three-stage assessment process prior to release, as outlined by the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA). The assessments occur during the Alpha, Beta and Live phases of development, and will need to meet the 13 Digital Service Standard points of criteria. This ensures a dynamic service which will adapt to user needs, and cohere with the agency’s requirements.
The web chat service is just one component of proposed upgrades to cope with increasing volumes of applicants and travellers. A global digital visa processing platform is in the sights, wherein applications would be accessed, paid and managed on the spot.
DIBP’s corporate plan, as well as recent REOI and Approach to Market submissions, reveal that the department deems automation to be a key solution in managing the demand of a high volume of travellers, employing biometrics to process travellers in a bid for the automation of borders and a reduction to manual processing.